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Fox Friday: Alexxandra Hoffmann Presents Research at International Conference
Fox Friday is a series that will highlight the accomplishments of students districtwide. We hope to regularly share the incredible things our students are doing. We will feature the students who excel academically and athletically as well as the students who are quietly impressive.
To start, we have been highlighting a few students in Fox Lane High School's Science Research Program and the extraordinary research they have been working on.
Today’s Fox Friday focuses on senior Alexxandra Hoffmann. Alexx recently traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to present work she did with her mentor, Dr. Armin Shahrokni of Memorial Sloane Kettering. Their research project was called Cognitive Impairment vs. Preoperative frailty: Which one matters more for postoperative delirium?
Can you explain your project?
Postoperative delirium is one of the most prevalent adverse surgical outcomes in older adults. With that said, in order to minimize the occurrences of this outcome, we seek to assess a patient preoperatively to determine if they have risk factors for postoperative delirium.
One of the most well-known risk factors is preoperative frailty. However, one component of our frailty assessment at Sloan Kettering is cognitive impairment, which is essentially a reduced ability to think, learn, remember, and make decisions. Therefore, we wanted to see how much of this relationship between preoperative frailty and postoperative delirium was driven by cognitive impairment.
In the end, we found that cognitive impairment was more strongly associated with delirium than frailty as a whole, so clinicians should seek to assess cognitive impairment instead of frailty if they have limited time.
What led you to study this topic?
I have always been interested in clinical research due to my interest in medicine and healthcare. My mentor happened to be a perfect fit for me in this regard.
How did you find your mentor? What has that experience been like?
I found my mentor through someone I knew at Sloan Kettering. I reached out to this person because I wanted to conduct my research in person. My mentor is one of the most selfless, compassionate, intelligent and humorous people I know. He has given me such unique opportunities as a high school student that will forever shape how I view healthcare.
What did the research process look like for this project?
Since our study was retrospective, it was relatively easy to obtain patient data. We did a lot of background research, began drafting our paper and then analyzed the data and drew conclusions. The entire process was pretty brief.
Were you surprised by any of your findings?
The most surprising finding was the degree to which cognitive impairment was associated with postoperative delirium compared with frailty. Frailty has long been the gold standard for assessing the risk of postoperative delirium but we found a much higher correlation with cognitive impairment. (Nearly 10 times greater). What we have found may change the way we look at this relationship in the future.
How could your research benefit society in the long term?
This research may allow us to better assess which patients are at risk for adverse surgical outcomes and thus determine which patients are actually fit for surgery.
How did the opportunity to travel to Geneva come up? How did you feel when you learned about it?
My mentor and I wrote an abstract for this project, which is a short synopsis of what we did, why we did it, and what we found. This abstract was published in a journal called the International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG) which held its annual conference in Geneva. Since I am the first author of our abstract (essentially leading the project), my mentor asked me to speak on behalf of this project at the conference.
What was the experience like?
The trip was easily one of the top five most incredible experiences of my life. It is truly unparalleled. I was thrown into an environment with well-established oncologists, geriatricians and surgeons from all over the world, learning about where we stand with geriatric oncology.
I was able to gain so much perspective and insight into medicine, but I was also able to push my personal boundaries. I had to walk up to incredibly successful strangers and sit with them during lunches and dinners when my mentor was not with me. I had to ask questions in front of hundreds of people and leverage networking opportunities. I also had to learn to be myself and stay calm even in an incredibly stressful environment. These challenges allowed me to learn a lot about myself, which was an unexpected plus from the trip.